The effectiveness of performance management systems at the Central University of Technology, Free State
Woyessa, Yali Edessa
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Performance management is a concept in the field of human resource management and is defined as a “continuous process of identifying, measuring and developing the performance of individuals and aligning performance with the strategic goals of the organization”. The performance management system known as IPerms was implemented at the Central University of Technology (CUT) about four years ago, starting first with senior managers and cascading down to all employees at all levels within the two portfolios of the university, namely, academic and support staff. The performance management system developed for this purpose consisted of key performance areas, strategic sets, goals and targets including the developmental needs of employees in order to improve their skills and self-development. However, there were indications that there has not been a clear strategy on the use of the results of the performance management system by the university for decision-making purposes, such as on promotion, reward or consequences for non-achievement of targets. Moreover, there were indications of a lack of participation among employees and a lack of feedback on the result of the final performance assessment, although mid-term feedback was provided directly for those at the supervisory level. A significant amount of time is spent every year by the university employees on this process, however, its effectiveness remains unclear. A study was conducted with the objective of evaluating the effectiveness of the performance management system. The research questions were: (1) How was the planning of performance management conducted? (2) What steps were followed for on-going feedback and employee input? (3) How effective was the evaluation and review of the performance management process? (4) How effective was the overall implementation of the performance management system? In order to answer the above research questions, a structured questionnaire, together with a number of open-ended questions were used to collect data. A purposive sampling method was used to identify study participants from both the academic and support staff. The study participants were sent an email with a link to a questionnaire using an online tool Surveymonkey to which the questionnaire was uploaded. The quantitative data was analysed using Microsoft Excel and the qualitative data using a text flow analysis method. The quantitative analysis of the responses showed that a significant number of participants agreed with most of the issues raised. However, the high number of respondents who indicated their disagreement (at different levels) or neutrality with regard to the issues and this points to the fact that there is much to be done in order to improve the effectiveness of the performance management system. Regarding the implementation stage of performance management, the majority of respondents (68%) were either in disagreement or unsure about this. The qualitative analysis unveiled interesting views on all aspects of performance management system, including a lack of involvement in target setting and implementation of the system and diverse expectations on performance outcomes. A lack of training and support on the system was found to be one of the key areas which might have resulted in a lack of trust in the system and created a perception of unfairness in relation to the whole system. The findings from this study are consistent with the general proposition that effective performance management systems should be supported by practices and organisational contexts with certain characteristics. Indeed, as reported in this study, the institution needs to provide more performance management training, engage employees and emphasise employee recognition. In this way the performance management system will be effective, deliver more value and meet the desired outcomes.